Time to introduce rapid antigen testing

The Government’s effective ban on rapid antigen testing made no sense before and makes even less sense now in light of the new testing requirements for essential workers crossing the Auckland border, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 are widely used overseas and produce a result in as little as 15 minutes. They are slightly less accurate than nasal PCR tests and saliva based PCR tests but the great advantage is the speed of results. They also pick people up when they are the most contagious.

“The Government has said that essential workers crossing the Auckland boundary while Auckland is at Level 4 will need to be tested weekly but is insisting on workers either obtaining a nasal PCR test or a saliva test.

“These tests will allegedly become available ‘in the coming weeks’. The results of these types of tests take a long time to come back and the requirements will impose even more costs on hard working businesses trying to keep the economy moving.

“There is an obvious solution.

“The Government should move quickly to supply rapid antigen tests to all companies working in and around the Auckland border.

“Workers could do a rapid antigen test either daily or every second day, would see any positive cases picked up more quickly than tests done weekly.

“Any positive result would have to be backed up by a nasal PCR test.

“It doesn’t make sense that the Government has banned rapid antigen tests when it accepts them as a pre-departure test for those seeking entry into New Zealand.

“Rapid antigen tests also have a role to play in mass surveillance testing following a community outbreak like the one in Auckland at the moment.

“The key with Delta is to test as many people as possible as quickly as possible, so rapid antigen testing, alongside saliva testing, should be widely used in this outbreak to pick up as many positive cases as quickly as possible.

“Failing to see the benefits of rapid antigen testing is another example of the Government not planning properly for a Delta outbreak.

“The Government has been asleep at the wheel when it comes to Delta with predictable results.”